The comforting: Michigan State returns three players with significant starting experience and five with a lot of snaps under their belts.
In all reality, one of the most important developments early in last season – and in the season before – was the emergence of left tackle Jack Conklin. With Conklin in place, the rest of the offensive line felt into place. Now, Conklin returns and has fully taken the let tackle spot as Donavon Clark has been working at right tackle and some at guard. On the inside, Jack Allen and Travis Jackson both have plenty of starts and snaps to their names. Connor Kruse, who started the spring as the No. 1 right guard, has the least snaps to his credit, but is a versatile offensive lineman that can play just about anywhere on the line.
So, somehow in spite of losing three starters on the offensive line, Michigan State still might have five players with decent experience and four with starts – three with a lot of them.
The concerning: The guard play of France and Treadwell were key to the run game last season. It was much talked about how Jeremy Langford had many fourth-quarter touchdowns last season, but that was much a credit to the offensive line wearing down opposing defenses as it was to Langford's stamina as a runner. At right tackle, Fonoti was solid most of the time and brought leadership and reliability once he returned to the lineup a couple games into the season. Finding the answers on the right side of the line is where everything focuses on for Michigan State. If Kodi Kieler, who has been hyped up since bowl practices began, can be the answer at right tackle, it bodes well as Clark and Kruse can then battle at right guard.
The experience Michigan State returns is valuable, but playing together is as important as anything on an offensive line. The Spartans' chemistry last year was phenomenal, can it be as good again?
The conclusion: The offensive line was integral to the success last year after having a rough 2012 – yes, it was a microcosm of the entire offense. The Spartans have every right to be excited about Conklin, who gives the Spartans a solid left tackle for the next three years – something that has not been seen in a while in East Lansing.
Having Jackson and Allen working together as left guard/center is good news for the Spartans as both are nasty on the interior offensive line. If the right side can get figured out, it figures to be another good group up front for the Spartans.
The other good news is that four offensive linemen will be coming to campus as part of the 2014 class, which adds to a strong tackle prospect Dennis Finley that came in during the 2013 cycle. That depth was much needed as only 11 offensive linemen took part in the spring game.